“It’s a self-licking ice cream cone."
March 31, 2011 1:21 AM   Subscribe

The Dangerous US Game in Yemen “The global war on terror has acquired a life of its own,” says Colonel Lang. “It’s a self-licking ice cream cone."

Lang continues "And the fact that this counterterrorism / counterinsurgency industry evolved into this kind of thing, involving all these people—the foundations and the journalists and the book writers and the generals and the guys doing the shooting—all of that together has a great, tremendous amount of inertia that tends to keep it going in the same direction.”
He adds, “It continues to roll. It will take a conscious decision on the part of civilian policy-makers, somebody like the president, for example, to decide that, ‘OK, boys, the show’s
over.’” “It seems that this is going to go on for a long time.”
posted by adamvasco (26 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
On reflexion: Iraq, (Mission accomplished); Afghanistan, (How to get out), Libya ( Boots on the Ground )
(*cough* $ *cough*)
posted by adamvasco at 1:23 AM on March 31, 2011

But Obama, he says, is far from deciding the show’s over.

Why omit this penultimate sentence from your quote?
posted by telstar at 1:37 AM on March 31, 2011

posted by knave at 1:37 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

telstar - so you could read the whole article without me holding your hand.
posted by adamvasco at 1:42 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Telstar, adamvasco, put that cone back in the freezer.
posted by codswallop at 2:02 AM on March 31, 2011

If you lick the cone you're doing it wrong. Lick the ice cream.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:07 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you lick the cone you're doing it wrong. Lick the ice cream.

Ice cream cone is metonymic!
posted by threeants at 2:21 AM on March 31, 2011

The cone knows that, don't try and teach it how to lick itself.
posted by ninebelow at 2:21 AM on March 31, 2011

I'm just confused because I don't normally think about ice cream and terrorism at the same time.

Although Bomb Pops were part of my childhood.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:28 AM on March 31, 2011

Muffin Man - fyi, original image source is SMBC
posted by russm at 2:36 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks russm - I long ago lost the link
posted by MuffinMan at 2:52 AM on March 31, 2011

Luckiest. ice cream cone. Ever.
posted by chillmost at 3:08 AM on March 31, 2011

Who comes up with these descriptive phrases? I clicked through tbh, adamvasco, because I really did think it was about some kind of dessert. Otoh, bad puns on deserts aside, I'm glad I did. Thanks for the post.
posted by infini at 3:11 AM on March 31, 2011

This is like so much of what is happening on the Af-Pak border. And it is having a similar effect: the drone strikes have caused the number of bombings to decrease. They may have made a dent in Al-Qaeda the organization, but increased those who subscribe to the Al-Qaeda ideology.
posted by Azaadistani at 4:05 AM on March 31, 2011

Does AQ even still exist? Fabius Maximus offers up a few reasons to believe that they don't anymore on his blog:
It appears that Washington and Hollywood describe AQ as the equivalent of Thrush, SPECTRE, and COBRA – publicly available evidence suggests that it is either dead or a shadow. Many experts (e.g., Stratfor) say that AQ has become a franchise, its core destroyed by the concerted effort of the world’s police and intelligence agencies (despite our recruiting efforts for AQ in Iraq and Afghanistan
posted by Harald74 at 4:15 AM on March 31, 2011

Who comes up with these descriptive phrases?

My guess is that the phrase "self-licking ice-cream" originated in the military, because the first (and in fact only other) time I have heard the phrase was from an ex-military colleague, about five years ago. It was an absolutely perfect metaphor for the thing he was commenting upon ...
posted by kcds at 4:15 AM on March 31, 2011

Does AQ even still exist

If they didn't, someone would have to invent them.

Oh, wait...
posted by pompomtom at 4:18 AM on March 31, 2011

Previously and some more background.
posted by adamvasco at 4:24 AM on March 31, 2011

Col. Lang has an interesting blog ....

also, there's this from the article:
Retired US Army Col. W. Patrick Lang, a veteran Special Forces officer, has known Saleh since 1979, having served for years as the Defense and Army attaché to Yemen. Fluent in Arabic, Lang was often brought into sensitive meetings as a translator for other US officials. He and his British MI6 counterpart would often go hunting with Saleh. “We would drive around with a bunch of vehicles and shoot gazelle, hyenas and the odd baboon,” Lang recalls, adding that Saleh was a “reasonably good shot.” Saleh, Lang says, is “a very charming devil,” describing his long rule as “quite a run in a country where it’s dog-eat-dog. It’s like being the captain on a Klingon battle cruiser, you know? They’re just waiting.”
posted by ennui.bz at 5:34 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thanks for posting this. I've had a growing interest in Yemen for some time now - they always seem to be the red headed stepchild in the media.

Go check out Google Earth and Panoramio. Sana'a, Taiz - the cities of the Western Highlands and Aden on the south coast have some stunning architecture. Absolutely spectacular.

I would dearly love to visit, but I am afraid it may have to wait.

As far as Al Qaeda goes, I don't think they have really been accurately portrayed in the media. AQ is more like Anonymous than it is the Boy Scouts. Of course it's a nebulous thing, and we know how poorly that gets served up in western media. I like to think that western leaders understand this, and know that they are trying to nail Jell-o to the wall when it comes to pinning down AQ.

The real trick for the west's leadership isn't dealing with AQ, it's dealing with the media and the people who think everything in life comes labelled in a box.
posted by Xoebe at 9:42 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this the political version of this word? Seems kind of appropriate...
posted by sneebler at 9:51 AM on March 31, 2011

This is why in the Libya threads here on MeFi I've been trying, and mostly failing, to get people to think not about the whole short-term politics of "pro-Libyan incursion/anti-Libyan incursion," but about the long-term situation America finds itself in:

with a) an overstretched military and global imperium; b) a vast network of private, profit-driven war contractors; c) a domestic economy on the skids; d) two epic military messes (Iraq and Afghanistan); and e) a vague, unending goal (the defeat of "terrorism" and/or despotism), America faces the reality of the capture of its government and "foreign policy" by the same complex of forces Eisenhower warned us about.

Thus, it is the context of this reality, and not the details of the situations in the middle east (Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria), that really matters.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 10:43 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Trust the emperor to clearly differentiate between the ice cream and the cone.

forgive me, i am overcome by the need to word play
posted by infini at 12:19 PM on March 31, 2011

synecdochic even.
posted by blackfly at 12:39 PM on March 31, 2011

There was a thoughtful, interesting segment on Democracy Now yesterday with Jeremy Scahill, the author of the linked article, and terror analyst Joshua Foust (gets good on Yemen around 20:23), at the end of which Scahill highly recommended the blog Waq al-Waq from Princeton's Gregory Johnsen for excellent discussion of current politics in Yemen.

Does AQ even still exist?

For what it's worth, both Scahill and Foust agreed that not only does Al Qaeda still exist, but Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) represents "by far the most substantial threat" to the United States (see 22:30 and onward). Foust notes "in the last several years they're the only group that's been able to launch credible attacks, even though they've been foiled."
posted by mediareport at 6:21 AM on April 1, 2011

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